Since the late 16th century, German travelers taking grand tours through Italy began telling about a significant presence of citrus fruit in Calabria. These fruits were already appreciated for their flavour, juiciness of the pulp, smell, and also as ornaments. Calabria produces about a quarter of Italy’s citrus. Approximately 35,000 hectares, distributed between 44,000 companies, are dedicated to the cultivation of this fruit. In particular the plains of Sibari, Gioia Tauro, and Lamezia, as well as the Crotone area, the Ionian coastline, and the areas surrounding the cities of Catanzaro and Reggio Calabria. Thanks to the favorable climate, Calabria boasts several varieties of native citrus fruit. The contribution of this region to growing citrus fruit in Italy can be attributed mainly to clementines, (63% of total domestic production), oranges (32%), mandarins (39.1%), and lemons (4.6%). Last but not least are Calabria’s exclusives: cedar and bergamot. Also the organic productions are worthy of note. According to Sinab data (updated December 12th 2015), more than 10,000 hectares (up 5% from the previous year) are dedicated to the environmentally-friendly and healthy organic crops. The Calabria Region, in fact, is a strong support, also through the resources of the Programme for Rural Development, the adoption and maintenance of organic practices, as well as the enhancement of the citrus fruit sector, and unique and niche products such as cedar and bergamot.
This citrus fruit resembles a small orange because of its precious skin. it grows only in Calabria, in the coastal strip that stretches from Villa San Giovanni to Gioiosa Jonica, between the Ionian and the Tyrrhenian sea, in the Reggio Calabria area. Some botanists believe that it originated right here in Calabria, perhaps thanks to a spontaneous mutation. The earliest traces found in the region date back to the 14th century. The “Femminello” and “Castagnaro”, and also the “Fantastico” are the local cultivars. Bergamot, an evergreen citrus, has a spherical shape and varies in colour from green to yellow, depending on the ripeness. The pulp provides a very bitter and tart juice. It is used to make syrup, candied fruit, as well as to manufacture citric acid, used for pharmaceuticals and for dyeing and printing textiles. The rind of the bergamot is used to extract “green gold”, namely the PDO essential oil of bergamot that has a very peculiar aroma of which Calabria is the world’s leading producer. Bergamot essence is sought to create fine fragrances. In addition to the wide range of perfumery and cosmetics, the essence is used in the pharmaceutical industry for its antiseptic and antibacterial powers, as well as its anti-cholesterol, hypoglycemic, and antioxidant properties. The essence and the juice are used as flavoring for creams and various liqueurs, soft drinks, herbal liqueurs, sweets, candied fruit, jams, cakes, ice cream and chocolates, as well as for savoury recipes.